Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Sunset and a few starlings

The Safari hadn't seen anything of note on either of our short visits to Patch 2 other than two each of Great Crested Grebes and Red Throated Divers.
The day was quite bright with a few isolated clouds and by mid afternoon it looked like a sunset was on the cards. We txtd CR and arranged another meet at the pier to watch the Starlings. On the dive in to work we were too far away to get a decent guesstimate but there was an impressive solid stream of them leaving the roost and flying off over the town centre.
A we drove down the prom the clouds thickened a nit and thoughts of a sunset were beginning to be dashed just like yesterday which promised so much through the afternoon then delivered zilch.
Today was a bit different
All pics straight of the phone with the only processing to straighten the horizon and resize to fit the screen. They are posted in the order we took them.
Not sure why they congregate on the beach like this - they look like an oil slick
We reckon about 10000 Starlings but in the absence of any predators, although the Peregrine has reappeared in the town centre, there was no throwing of shapes just a general mooching about without really coming into tightly packed groups.
Even if there weren't any Starlings it would have been well worth stopping just for the light show - simply stunning! The best things in life are free and open for all to enjoy.
Where to next? A repeat of the above wouldn't go amiss.
In the meantime let us know what's been set on fire in your outback.

Monday, 24 November 2014

Birding - fair dos

The Safari didn't do much on Saturday, we went a-visiting friends with Wifey. Just before we set off three Jackdaws flew over Base Camp, quite a high count for here when the big migrant flocks aren't about. Also in the air were a shed load of Feral Pigeons and gulls so the recently invisible Peregrine may have been about or perhaps 'just' a Sparrowhawk
Our trip up the motorway was uneventful, the weather too poor to play Buzzards v Kestrels, not raptor fling weather at all! We did get a Jay flying over the carriageway which was nice. It was sad to see quite a number of squished Hedgehogs, most were small juveniles so may not have been large enough to survive the winter in hibernation but better that than run over we think.
The afternoon was spent in the pub catching up, being arm-chair football managers and generally drinking too much beer.
The rain came in waves and the sunshine shone between showers while the tide ebbed. The freshly uncovered mudflats had a Little Egret stalking around the channels - one for the 'seen from the pub while drinking beer' list.
Sunday we visited the NW Birdwatching Festival at the place which  sounds similar to our nature reserve 'that we do not mention by name' across the river. We had a plan and (some) money to spend but we'd left the credit card back at Base Camp just in case, after all we can resist everything except temptation. A quick look round the exhibits saw us keep the wallet firmly in the pocket, there wasn't really anything we could splurge out on - unless of course we'd gone overboard on the credit card so a good job we'd left it safely at home.
So off out we went to look at some wildlife. For a change we took a wander through the collection zone where we've not been for about 30 years. Great to see lots of families out n about feeding the ducks and having fun in the outdoors.
A nice flock of a species we're yet to see in the wild this year was grazing but were almost as shy as their wild counterparts, looking at us with great suspicion and keeping their distance and their backs turned.
Soon enough we were ensconced in the nearest hide and just sat listening to the gentle honking of the Whooper Swans, other waterfowl and Lapwings outside the window. There were birds everywhere!
A Buzzard sat on a distant post and a distant Kestrel hovered over the wet grassland. It was all very idyllic but really it could have done with some big mammals to complete the scene. They have Longhorn cattle but these are moved between small fields rather than being allowed to range freely - there'll be a well thought out plan; woulda been good to see some wallowing going on sure the ducks wouldn't mind either.
A Marsh Harrier flew over upsetting everything.
We do like Lapwings, a sight and probably even more, a sound of our youth.
A small number of Ruff were poking around at the water's edge and eventually one came close enough for the camera
 Whooper Swans kept coming in as the morning turned to afternoon.
We watched the punters in the hide, lots of men with beards and green jackets and mostly new Swazzas, the Swazza marketing team must be on good bonuses there were two of these for every one of all other comparable brands put together. The Canon crew were doing well too, lots of white lenses were being poked out of the windows. A few families came in but like last year teenagers were the rarity but certainly not absent altogether thankfully. We had a good chat with the lad next to us, a Nikon lad, and ear-wigged the others - without meaning to sound arrogant or elitist there was some guff being spoken from scary identification (the Ruff was a Dunlin!?!) to some ecological nonsense about Magpies and Sparrowhawks worthy of a 'You forgot the Birds' forum rather than a WWT hide.
Time to go to listen to the Urban Birder give his talk. Not a bad lad at all and some interesting places visited, but all under his catchphrase of Look Up - rather a kin to our own if you don't look you won't see - but that's what it's all about - looking, learning and especially looking in some obscure places finding your own patch and studying it rather than going to superb reserves like the one we were at all the time.
DL says Look up but what about looking down - we rather un-nerved some gents when we got the camera out to to get a pic of this.
Glad our ones at work are much cleaner - and we weren't getting too close to ID the the Shieldbug to species
Just goes to show what you can find if you look.
DC then strode into view as a skein of Pink Footed Geese came into view - nothing for it - Look Up!!!
That's him in the middle - not often he's the tallest in a crowd
Back to the hide for the rest of the afternoon where the light was low and strong.
Looking dapper and showing off for the ladies
 The sun dropped further
We took a wander to the next big hide along which Mr & Mrs C went off to look for the Tawny Owl we'd told them about.
There was a nice Marsh Harrier sat up in a tree and an expectant crowd was waiting to see if the local Barn Owl would put on a show. Inside the hide a huge Harlequin Ladybird crawled across the window frame.
The walk back caught another of our senses, scent - the wet woods the other side of the Fox-proof fence smelt wonderfully wet and fusty - just right for the increasingly rare Willow Tits of which there is one about visiting the feeders here from time to time.
Surprisingly green still considering it's the end of November
 At the end of the day the car park had us looking up for the last time
Twas a grand day out, good chat, a good talk, good laughs and great birds - the simple pleasures and didn't cost us more than a couple of gallons of fuel in the end! Phewww!!!
Today we didn't get a chance of a morning look at Patch 2 and our brief lunchtime look didn't give us much . But then a bit a mid-afternoon job by the windows in the corridor gave us a Magpie, which at the time we thought was the first for Patch 2 this year but later when checking records we found it was actually the second.
Not long after we saw a Sparrowhawk going over, the Feral Pigeons alerted us to the presence of a raptor. This was the first of year here (P2 #81) - only nine to go to get to our target, gonna be hard with less than a month to go now on Patch 2.
Where to next? More Patch 2 tomorrow
In the meantime let us know who's paddling away furiously in your outback.

Friday, 21 November 2014

A feathery mix from west Lancashire from our now Welsh Extreme Photographer

The Safari only managed a few dreary minutes not long after dawn and fewer very damp minutes at lunchtime.
Easily best sighting of the day was an adult Gannet cruising round over the heads of about 20 Cormorants and  five Red Throated Divers were seen.
At lunchtime the visibility was dreadful and we didn't stay long, not even to look for the now assumed AWOL Black Redstart.
Totally lacking pics today we are very grateful for our Extreme Photographer lets us show  you what he's been up to on his few days back in Lancashire with his new camera/lens combo
Great Grey Shrike - Lytham Moss
Robin - Marton Mere nature reserve
(Eastern) Grey Squirrel - Marton Mere nature reserve
Great Spotted Woodpecker - Marton Mere nature reserve
His pics should be good once he's got the hang of the controls!
Where to next? The weekend starts here and there will deffo be some wildlife involved.
In the meantime let us know who brightened the dreariness in your outback.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

A somewhat black day today

The Safari has been busy the last couple of days with little opportunity to get out from a small (but not darkened) room. We've had some laughs doing some serious work we'll be able to tell you about shortly.
Today we had a later start than originally anticipated and that gave us the chance of a few minutes on Patch 2 (wonder if we'll ever get to Patch 1 again)
The first thing to catch our eye was a Pied Wagtail along the top of the wall catching flies. Over the other side the tide was in and not too far out our first scan with the scope revealed a fair number of Cormorants concentrated in a small area of sea. There must have been some fish about. Also in the general area and continuing the black and white theme, probably waiting for the chance of a steal, were half a dozen Great Black Backed Gulls and a Lesser Black Backed Gull too.
More Cormorants came in and then we saw the distinctive rolling black fin of a Harbour Porpoise much closer in. It took a few more minutes before we got onto it again well to our right this time. We saw it twice more and then time was really pressing but as we turned the go we heard the 'chisick' of more Pied Wagtails and just had to stop for a look. Glad we did, there was a Wheatear with them - always worth checking a late Wheatear...just in case, and this was one of those cases! OK so it wasn't a vagrant species of Wheatear but a paleish Black Redstart (177, P2 #80) a female or immature. Great stuff but time to go, nice way to start the day is a self-found local scarcity.
And that was the last opportunity for wildifing for the rest of the day. nice to see a small crowd gathering for a look as we left for our appointment, a very quick chat revealed it had 'gone' but thankfully it was relocated not far away a little later.
Where to next? Back on Patch 2 in the morning and we should be able to get a lunchtime look too...what will we find?
In the meantime let us know if it's a black and white in your outback.

Monday, 17 November 2014

Back on the sands again

The Safari had no chance of getting out early today and the conditions looked good enough to eat! Fortunately we did get out at lunchtime. We'd already decided to get down on to the beach rather than getting the scope out for a usual scan of the sea which by now was almost like a mirror on the low tide. It took a lot of will power not to get the scope out and to put the wellies on instead but put the wellies on we did.
It was great to get down on the beach and sheltered from the north easterly breeze by the seawall above us it felt like summer down there.
We're sure we're preaching to the converted here but just in case there are new readers that haven't popped by before then please get out and have a look around you where-ever you are even in the town centres. Give the corporate Chinese tat-fest that is Christmas shopping a miss, instead of looking in look up, look down, look around, look anywhere except at the sh*te designed to relieve you of your hard earned cash. There's a whole world of wildlife to discover even in the most urban areas and it doesn't cost a penny to enjoy, just a little time and a little practice.
Out on the beach looking down is order of the day - apart from looking across at the gulls of course!
The tide line wasn't over exciting but there were quite a few Edible Whelk shells in various states of repair. The bright low light made for interesting shadows.

Also interesting and fascinatingly beautiful are the patterns in the sand that the water in the runnels make as they drain away. As someone just said over on F/B there's art everywhere if you care to look
Not so artistic was our next find, a Mermaid's Purse aka egg case from a Lesser Spotted Catshark, this one is empty the baby shark having swum off into the big wide world. Sad to see how much fishing litter there is tangled up with the seaweed that it's attached to. There's far too much plastic out there please don't add to it - use the bins, recycle your waste, better still lobby for less plastic to be necessarily used - if it's not made it won't be thrown away (there's actually no such place as AWAY) in the wrong place.
Our time on the beach was far too short, we'd have found more to keep you entertained if we'd had a few more minutes.
As we were leaving work our Extreme Photographer appear with a camera full of superb Great Grey Shrike pics but he's very critical of them and will be going back tomorrow to get new improved ones providing the light is on his side; the weather forecast looks to be in his favour. While we chatted there was a bit of a sunset starting to happen and we could see it was drawing a crowd of watchers and photographers along the see wall. As our EP left we got a txt from CR saying he was at the pier doing the Starling thing again so as it was on route there was only one thing to do - join him! 
Just got the angle slightly wrong on this one should have lifted the camera slightly and not cut off the end of the pier with the lamp post but hey-ho that sky is pretty darn good.
Very few Starlings tonight on both piers, passing Central Pier we saw only about 300 unless they'd already gone in. CR reported that most here at North Pier had already done so and that there were perhaps only 1000 or so. Where are they all - at the nature reserve??? Just as we turned to leave about 500 left the underside of the pier and headed off WNW - to the nature reserve??? 
So no murmurations but we think the sky just about made up for it - and we probably missed the best of it driving to meet C.
Where to next? A very busy day tomorrow but there should be a do at something at lunchtime - assuming we get a lunch!
In the meantime let us know who's making the patterns in your outback